Friday, April 21, 2006

The atrocities of religious crackpots

I recently read one of the most disturbing newspaper articles I have ever seen. It reported on the burial in Nashville, Tenn. earlier this week of Cpl. David A. Bass, a 20-year old Marine killed in Iraq. The solemn ceremony was marred by the appearance of a small group of people, standing across the street from the church, "celebrating" Cpl. Bass'death.

The demonstrators were members of a tiny fundamentalist Baptist church in Topeka, Kan. They carried placards reading "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "Thank God for I.E.Ds"--the latter a reference to the roadside bombs that have killed scores of our troops in Iraq. They trashed an American flag and shouted that the soldiers killed in Iraq were "rotting in hell."

These were not anti-war protesters. They were people who considered themselves religious Christians. They were arguing that God is killing U.S. soldiers to punish America for "condoning homosexuality." The Kansas church group had previously attracted publicity by picketing the funeral of the young gay man beaten to death in Wyoming six years ago. I consider their activities to be atrocities.

More recently, they have been showing up, in groups with as many as 20 people, at other military funerals with their ugly chants, anti-gay placards and tattered American flags. According to their literal interpretation of the Bible, homosexuality is an abomination. One may share that religious belief about homosexuals, but that is a bizarre justification for their atrocious behavior at the funerals of troops killed in Iraq.

What is one to make of such people whose dreadful behavior is based on religious belief? They have crossed the line from religious piety to fanaticism, and they threaten civil society. The Bible can be interpreted in many different ways. But what these crackpots are doing is obscene.

There are other religious militants who use similarly atrocious tactics for another cause: abortion rights. These so-called "pro-lifers" are willing to kill and threaten doctors who perform abortions and to harass the unfortunate women who, for very personal, nerve-wracking reasons, want an abortion. But the protestors' alleged reverence for life seems to vanish when society is called upon to take care of unwanted babies. Again, one may truly believe that abortion is sinful. That is no excuse, however, to commit atrocities.

Religious fanaticism is not confined, of course, to Christianity. Several years ago, an ultra-Orthodox rabbi in Israel "explained" that a busload of young children were killed in an accident because their school had improperly installed a mezuzah--a traditional Jewish religious symbol--on its doorpost. And there have been eccentric ultra-Orthodox rabbis who theorized that 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust as divine punishment against the Jewish people for drifting away from traditional religious observance. They, too, were committing atrocities.

And then, of course, there is radical Islam and the jihadis who are eager to kill "infidels" in the name of Allah. To be sure, the suicide bombers in Israel and Iraq are politically motivated. But they have combined their political causes with religious belief, and they have been taught to expect divine salvation because of their grisly acts.

I am not criticizing those religious fundamentalists who do not intrude into the lives of other people. My own grandparents, who died more than a half-century ago, could probably have been described as religious fundamentalists. They were genuinely pious Jews, however, who did not try to impose their beliefs on others. Nor did they turn to violence against those who did not share their religious values. They were saint-like people who practiced their religion in a truly spiritual manner.

I can now confess, however, that I may have had a different opinion as a child when
my devout grandmother, with whom I lived, "encouraged" me to recite my prayers when I awakened in the morning and when I went to bed at night. Although I am not now religiously observant, my grandmother's "encouragement" did me no harm.


Blogger Chancy said...

"These were not anti-war protesters. They were people who considered themselves religious Christians"

These people consist mainly and probably exclusively of Fred Phelps family. He is an unbalanced individual who for years has been known for his bizarre behavior.

check this out for info on Phelps

Friday, April 21, 2006 10:17:00 PM  
Anonymous joared said...

You have certainly described well the issues surrounding a topic which has long been distressing to me. I can only hope that those with still open minds will read what you have written and understand the logic.

Friday, April 21, 2006 11:08:00 PM  
Anonymous Ajju said...


Saturday, April 22, 2006 5:13:00 PM  
Blogger Mere said...

Although I am myself a Christian I am disgusted by this idea. I am in complete support of same-sex marriage and find myself undable to understand those against it.
I am Canadian and we are currently dealing with a lot of opposition to our troops currently serving in Afghanistan. The Conservative government is currently in office and, although I support the left-wing parties on most issues, I am behind our right-wing party when it comes to the military.
The Prime Minister has changed policies after 4 Canadian soldiers were recently killed by a roadside bomb. The Canadian flag flying on the peace tower in Ottawa has been lowered to half-mast in the past but will now remain at full mast even after the death of soldiers.
Men and women serving as soldiers overseas deserve the utmost respect whether they make the ultimate sacrifice or not. I was shocked to see your story though also surprised that I had not heard of it before.
I am religious, I do believe in God but sometimes others who call themselves Christian do little but make me less sure if I should apply the title to myself.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 12:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Maria said...

I wandered over to your delightful blog by way of Claude. I always need to take a deep breath when I read something written with such fervor and understanding.

Thank you. I am so disgusted with the Christian Right and their views on Homosexuality and abortion. I find it embarassing to admit to being Christian since the word seems to be changing to something that it should not (in my opinion) be.

My wonderful daughter is a Lesbian and a church-going Christian. The church that she and her partner attend embraces all people. She is also a police officer. I often wonder if these bigots would want her to intercede in their behalf if they knew her sexual preference. Bet they wouldn't care if they were being robbed and she was the first officer on the call. I am sure they wouldn't say, "Sorry, I don't like Homo's so I will wait for your Hetro back-up.

Friday, April 28, 2006 7:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You should have dropped the jihadi paragraph. The whole rest of your post was about people who say nasty things out of religious zeal. The jihadis kill people, they kill people in their thousands, they kill as a first resort.

Do you consider killing people with the intent of terrorizing every else to be synonymous with saying nasty things ?

Sunday, April 30, 2006 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve Elder said...

I have read your blog for about five months or so and I have never posted a comment, but the Westboro Babtist Church in Topeka has been an interest of mine for at least a year now, so I feel I should comment.
I consider myself a Christian and I have been infuriated, saddened, and made to be sick because of what people like Fred Phelps have done in the name of God. This is a perfect example of why our founders saw a need for the "Wall of Seperation".

What this HATE GROUP has done is open our eyes to the dangers of mixing religion and politics. The thing is people such as yourself (not an attack, just opinion) keep bringing it to the forefront, fanning the flames of anger. The fanatics against Mr. Phelps are just as dangerous to our country as Mr. Phelps himself. We must ignore this idiot, along with the Christian cheerleader we have in office.

Between Fred Phelps (one side) and George Bush (the other), we are prone to the possability of a total renovation of politics as we know it.

My God is far to great and unimaginable that noone has the right to speak on His behalf. People like G.W. and Phelps are the opposite of what they claim to be. They use the god that they are supposed to love and drag him through political sewage to promote worthless agendas.

I bet God told G.W. to invade Iraq, just to give the redneck a scapegoat when it's all said and done.

Friday, June 16, 2006 4:19:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009 10:16:00 PM  

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